The new chairman of the Press Complaints Commission Lord Hunt has praised regional newspapers for upholding the ‘highest professional standards”.
Hunt, the former MP for Wirral, took up the role in October following the resignation of Baroness Buscombe in the wake of mounting criticism over the watchdog’s handling of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Hunt said the Editors’ Code of Practice required journalists to maintain the highest professional standards and that the ‘regional Press has always done that”.
‘I don’t think in my 35 years in Parliament I have come across any instance where anyone fell below those standards,’he said.
‘The first section title in the code of practice is accuracy – that’s key – and I see all of the provisions in the code as being part and parcel of, and in the genes and fabric of, the being of the regional press.”
He added: ‘When you look back at all the key stories that have developed, they had their origin, usually, in regional papers.”
‘I’ve always had fair treatment from local newspapers, but the nationals do tend to carry very critical pieces when you are in public life.”
Hunt also criticised those people now clamouring for state regulation of the press – telling the Echo: ‘I don’t want the state and I don’t want politicians interfering with freedom of expression”.
He continued: ‘I attended a meeting where people were arguing for state regulation and I just asked them to think ‘Who would be applauding?’
‘When they didn’t answer I said our Chinese cousins would be delighted if we were to introduce state regulation.
“While it’s a right, freedom of expression carries with it a heavy responsibility. I have found this in all the newspaper offices I have been in – journalists recognise they do have a heavy responsibility.”